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Ukraine updates: Zelenskyy slams Russian ‘dirty bomb’ claims – DW – 10/23/2022


In his daily video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy dismissed Moscow’s claims that Ukraine was preparing provocations with the use of a “dirty bomb”, as suggested by Russia’s defense minister during telephone calls with NATO counterparts.

“If Russia calls and says that Ukraine is allegedly preparing something, it means one thing: Russia has already prepared all this. I believe that now the world should react as harshly as possible,” Zelenskyy said.

The Ukrainian president also said that only Russia was capable of using nuclear weapons in Europe.

“If anyone can use nuclear weapons in this part of Europe — it can be only one source — and that source is the one that has ordered comrade Shoigu to telephone here or there,” Zelenskyy said.

Earlier on Sunday, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba denounced Moscow’s claims as “absurd” and “dangerous”. “Russians often accuse others of what they plan themselves,” he added. 

Here are the other main headlines from the war in Ukraine on October 23:

Ukraine lost 90 percent of its wind power — government

Ukraine lost around 90% of its wind power capacity as a result of the Russian invasion. In the case of solar energy, the loss is 40-50%, Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko said on Ukrainian television on Sunday.

According to Halushchenko, before the war, renewables accounted for 10-11% of energy production in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Kyiv’s energy operator said that scheduled “stabilization” power cuts have been introduced in the Ukrainian capital after Russian strikes on the country’s energy infrastructure.

Russia in recent days has repeatedly targeted Ukraine’s energy grid, destroying at least a third of the country’s power stations ahead of winter.

Russian, Western defense ministers discuss Ukraine in phone calls

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told his British counterpart Ben Wallace on Sunday that Moscow was concerned Kyiv could be planning to use a “dirty bomb” in Ukraine.

It’s a claim Moscow has made before, without providing evidence. A “dirty bomb” refers to a conventional explosive device that disperses radioactive material.

Wallace “refuted” claims by Moscow that Western countries were facilitating a planned escalation of the war in Ukraine. “The defense secretary refuted these claims and cautioned that such allegations should not be used as a pretext for greater escalation,” Britain’s Ministry of Defence said in a statement, noting Moscow had requested the conversation.

Shoigu also repeated the “dirty bomb” claim in phone calls earlier in the day with the French and Turkish defense ministers. He also later spoke with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

“The situation in Ukraine, which has a steady tendency towards further, uncontrolled escalation, was discussed,” by Shoigu and France’s Sebastien Lecornu, Russia’s Defense Ministry said.

In a statement, Lecornu said France would not get drawn into any form of escalation in the Ukraine conflict, especially regarding nuclear options.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said that Russian claims are “absurd” and “dangerous.” “Firstly, Ukraine is a committed NPT member: we neither have any ‘dirty bombs,’ nor plan to acquire any. Secondly, Russians often accuse others of what they plan themselves,” he wrote on Twitter.

There have been growing fears that Moscow may resort to using tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine, where counteroffensives by Kyiv’s troops have forced Russian units to go on the defensive.  

Moscow deploying mercenaries to defend occupied territories: UK Defence Ministry

In its latest assessment, Britain’s Ministry of Defence says Russia is planning to bring mercenaries to defend its occupied territories as it faces counteroffensives by Kyiv.

Wagner Group owner Yevgeny Prigozhin claimed online last week that his engineering teams were constructing an extensive fortified

“Wagner Line” of defenses in Russian-occupied Luhansk, the ministry said.

It added that a map Prigozhin had posted online “showed a section of newly constructed anti-tank defenses and trench systems southeast of Kreminna in Luhansk.”

Russia has been using the Wagner Group in conflicts for several years, including in Syria and the Central African Republic.

In a recent video, the mercenary group’s chief appeared to be recruiting Russian prisoners to fight in Ukraine. 

Russia withdraws officers from Kherson — think tank

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) says Russia’s military leadership is pulling its officers out of the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson ahead of an expected advance by Ukrainian forces.

The think tank said Russian officers were being moved across to the eastern bank of the Dnieper River, while newly mobilized, less experienced troops would be left on the western side to slow the Ukrainian counteroffensive.

Kherson is the capital of a region of the same name that was illegally annexed by Russian President Vladimir Putin last month. The city has been in Moscow’s hands since early in the war. On Saturday, Russian-installed authorities there told all residents to evacuate immediately.

Ukraine’s military said Sunday that Russian forces were now mostly on the defensive, but were continuing to target energy infrastructure and launch attacks on several towns in the eastern Donbas.

The ISW think tank said Russia’s strategy of targeting power plants in recent days appeared to be aimed at hurting Ukrainians’ will to fight and forcing Kyiv to spend additional resources to protect civilians and energy infrastructure. 

Kherson front lines in flux

Russian forces in Kherson urged civilians to “evacuate,” with a post on Telegram noting that “Due to the tense situation at the front, the increased danger of massive shelling of the city and the threat of terrorist attacks, all civilians must immediately leave the city” and cross to the eastern side of the Dnieper River.

Russian forces are in control east of the Dnieper River.

After warnings of a Ukrainian counter offensive to recapture the city were announced, thousands of civilians left Kherson.

At Oleshky, which is the opposite bank of the bank of Dnieper, people were seen arriving by a river boat loaded with boxes, bags and pets.

Ukrainians pack their belongings and wait in line as they evacuate Kherson.As power outages continue, Russian forces in Ukraine’s Kherson urged civilians to evacuate. Image: Dmitry Marmyshev/TASS/IMAGO

Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk wrote on Telegram, “Kherson region! Just a little bit more. Hang in there. The Ukrainian Armed Forces are at work.”

G7 condemns Russia’s takeover of Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant

The leaders of the G7 nations condemned Russia’s kidnapping of the Ukrainian officials responsible for the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

In a statement, they condemned the abduction of the plant’s leadership and said that Russia must immediately return full control of the plant to Ukraine.

Russian forces took control of the nuclear plant in the initial aftermath of the February 24 invasion. 

The urgent meeting of the G7 leadership came a day after Moscow launched more than 80 missiles at Ukraine. The attack killed at least 19 people and left 105 injured.

The G7 also condemned Putin’s nuclear sabre rattling.

Former Motor Sich owner detained on treason charges

Ukrainian forces detained Vyacheslav Boguslaev, the former owner of Motor Sich, a well-known manufacturer of aircraft engines in Ukraine.

He has reportedly been charged with treason.

Several Ukrainian media outlets reported that after being detained, Boguslaev was whisked off to Kyiv. 

Reports quoted security sources who said that Boguslaev, a former member of parliament, was suspected of collaborating and assisting the Russian occupation of four Ukrainian regions, including Zaporizhzhia.

Citing security sources, Ukrainian journalist Iryna Romaliyska wrote in a Facebook post that Boguslaev was known for his pro-Russian views and was in contact with Russian intelligence services. Boguslaev allegedly helped to supply Moscow with aircraft parts, she said.

Kyiv warns of a ‘humanitarian catastrophe’ after Moscow’s airstrikes

The Ukrainian government warned that Russia’s escalating attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure could spark a major “humanitarian catastrophe.”

Kyiv said at least 40% of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure has already been destroyed. The attacks have forced the country to brace for a cold winter with a limited supply of power.

Zelenskyy thanked energy service providers and grid operators who were working to rebuild critical sites despite the risk.

His office said Saturday that Russia’s airstrikes had damaged the Ukrenergo power company, leaving close to 1.5 million customers were left without electricity.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an advisor to Zelenskyy, tweeted that “By striking Ukraine’s critical infrastructure, the Kremlin wants to provoke new refugees” to Europe. He added that the only way to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe is to “transfer air defense and additional missiles fast.”

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal also warned that the intensified Russian attacks would “trigger a new migration tsunami.”

Zelenskyy vows to down Russian missiles

As Russia continued to attack Ukraine’s critical civilian infrastructure, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy pledged that his military would up its air defense systems to counter incoming Russian missiles.

Zelenskyy said, “Those treacherous blows on critically important facilities are characteristic tactics of terrorists.” He added, “The world can and must stop this terror.”

Even though Ukraine currently doesn’t have the technical ability to down all of the missiles and drones Russia sends incoming, it is only a matter of time before Ukraine “will achieve that” with the help of partners, he said.

The latest airstrikes have caused power outages in many parts of the country.

In his nightly video address, Zelenskyy noted that Saturday Ukrainian forces downed 20 Russian missiles and more than 10 Iranian-made drones. Earlier, the Ukrainian air force confirmed that of 33 missiles fired at Ukraine by Russia that 18 were shot down.

ns/ar (dpa, Reuters)